The owner of a bar in Armstrong County and his bartender waived their right to preliminary hearings and will likely file pleas in a case where they have been charged with serving alcohol to minors. Larry Pompelia, owner of The Final Score Saloon, and Karly Ann Good, the bartender, allegedly served three men who were younger than the legal age, prior to their pickup truck plunging into a pond, resulting in their deaths.
The three friends, who were 19 and 20 years of age, were headed to a party when the 19-year old driver became disoriented while driving his truck up a steep hill, which then overturned in a muddy overflow pond, just after midnight. Pompelia and Good were later charged with two misdemeanors for selling alcohol to minors. Pompelia waived a hearing on separate charges involving tampering with evidence, where Pompelia allegedly erased video footage that showed the three men drinking at The Final Score Saloon.
Both Pompelia and Good may have plea bargain deals in the works that would allow at least one of them to be admitted into Indiana's Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition program for non-violent first-time criminal offenders. Those enrolled in the program do not need to enter a guilty plea, and whoever successfully completes the probationary period can petition to have his or her record expunged.
In situations like this, it is not uncommon for injured parties — such as third parties injured in an accident — to file a negligence lawsuit in civil court while criminal proceedings are taking place. In 38 states, including Indiana, there are "dram shop" laws in place that make the owner of a bar, tavern, restaurant, or any other host that serves alcohol partially liable for any accident that results from intoxication. The liability usually depends upon whether the owner and/or bartender was aware that the customer was noticeably impaired, yet continued to serve the customer anyway. Indiana's dram shop law has strict accountability. Nonetheless, it can be difficult for an Indiana personal injury attorney to prove that the owner and/or bartender were aware of the customer's obvious impairment, or that alcohol was always the predominant factor in a crash.
Even so, in cases where a third party is injured by a drunk driver, the third party might file a lawsuit against the driver and the owner or bartender. The third party would argue that the owner or bartender should have exercised reasonable judgment and declined to serve the customer more alcohol once it was clear the customer was highly intoxicated. The owner or bartender failed to do so, and as a result, the customer was too intoxicated to drive responsibly and injured the third party. The family of the intoxicated driver might also sue the owner or bartender if the driver was injured, claiming that the owner or bartender should have known that the driver was too young, or too impaired. However, the family might have a tougher time proving that the injured driver was 50% or less at fault for the accident under Indiana's modified comparative negligence system.
Miller & Falkner is a plaintiffs law firm serving residents of Kentucky and Indiana. Located in Louisville, Kentucky, the firm provides representation in the areas of personal injury and employment law. Contact us today for a free consultation.